Council for American Private Education

Voice of America's Private Schools

Cape Kids

About CAPE

Primary Advocate for American Private Education

girl student

The Council for American Private Education (CAPE) is a coalition of national organizations and state affiliates serving private elementary and secondary schools. There are over 33,000 private schools in America; in fact, one in four of the nation’s schools is a private school. More than five million students (10 percent of all students) attend them. CAPE member organizations represent about 80 percent of private school enrollment nationwide.

Private Schools and America

As America’s first schools, private schools established our country’s foundation for education. Today, private schools help fulfill the American ideal of educational pluralism. Our nation is blessed by a rich diversity of schools—some rooted in religious tradition, some that provide intensive academic experiences and some that are specialized for specific populations. Whether public or private, these diverse schools constitute the American educational experience and share a worthy goal: the education of our country’s children. Together, public and private schools work to ensure an educated citizenry; together they strive to help students reach their potential and contribute to the common good.

CAPE member organizations are themselves diverse. The CAPE board of directors and state network representatives deliberate extensively, listen to each other carefully and endeavor to reach agreement on important public policy issues. They are primarily motivated by the concepts of opportunity, choice, pluralism and excellence in education. Further, they are vitally interested in participating in the debate on the future of education in America and are ready to share a perspective shaped by private school experience.

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Mission and Goals

CAPE's mission is to preserve and promote educational pluralism so that parents have a choice in the schooling of their children. Founded in 1971 to provide a coherent voice for private education, CAPE is dedicated to fostering communication and cooperation within the private school community and with the public sector to improve the quality of education for all of the nation’s children. By speaking as one national voice, CAPE...

  • promotes the vital role of private schools in American education and their significant contributions to educating the public and promoting the common good;
  • promotes the rights of parents to educate their children in the schools of their choice;
  • encourages excellence and pluralism in education and promotes the right of private schools to fulfill their unique missions;
  • fosters the participation of the private school community in shaping the nation’s education agenda, and develops and promotes positions on education policy;
  • advocates the equitable opportunity of private school students to participate in appropriate state and federal education programs;
  • monitors and analyzes legislation and regulations affecting private schools;
  • provides information about private education to policy-makers and the public;
  • keeps the private school community informed on issues and programs.

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CAPE’s activities include:

Communicating the public purpose of private schools; their effectiveness at producing informed, caring and committed citizens; their role in educating the public at considerable savings to taxpayers; their direct and immediate accountability to parents; and their promotion of the common good.

Providing lawmakers and policymakers with information on matters of interest and concern to private schools, including school choice, educational excellence and pluralism, school reform, learning technology, tax policy and equitable opportunities for private school students under government programs.

Interacting with Congress, the Administration, the U.S. Department of Education and other government agencies to ensure consideration of the private school perspective.

Sponsoring meetings to enable representatives of CAPE member organizations to communicate directly with members of Congress and other policymakers.

Working with the State CAPE Network to achieve CAPE’s goals at the state and local levels.

Publishing Outlook (a monthly newsletter), periodic issue papers, resource documents, news releases and e-mail updates on public policy issues.

Maintaining a web site ( for communicating with the general public about private education.

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CAPE's Board of Directors

Gary B. Arnold
At-Large Member
Arkansas State CAPE
Vice President
Drew Smith
Executive Director
Friends Council on Education
Larry Taylor
Association of Christian Schools International
Mary Pat Donoghue
Executive Director
Secretariat of Catholic Education
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Rabbi David Zwiebel
Executive Vice President
Agudath Israel of America
Steve Lindquist, M.Ed
Executive Director
Association of Christian Teachers and Schools
Rebecca Moskowitz
Executive Director
Association of Waldorf Schools of North America
Tom Dykhouse
Christian Schools International
Sufia Azmat
Executive Director
Council of Islamic Schools
in North America
Kathryn Wiens
Executive Director
Council on Educational Standards and Accountability
Cory Newman
Executive Director
Evangelical Lutheran Education
Association, representing
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Shaza Khan
Executive Director
Islamic Schools League of America
Ashley Rogers Berner
At-Large Member
Deputy Director
Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy
Rebecca Schmidt
Director, LCMS Schools
The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
The Rev. Daniel Heischman
Executive Director
National Association of Episcopal Schools
Lincoln Snyder
National Catholic Educational Association
Brandon Tatum
National Christian School Association
Mark John Freund
Executive Director
Office for Lasallian Education, Christian Brothers Conference
Donnie Peal
Executive Director
Oral Roberts University Educational Fellowship
H. Stephen Bralley
Director of Secondary Education
Seventh-Day Adventist Church,
North America Division
Laura Colangelo
State CAPE Representative to the Board
Executive Director
Texas Private Schools Association
Mary Pat Donoghue
Executive Director
Secretariat of Catholic Education
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Jim Rademan
Director, Commission on Lutheran Schools
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod Schools


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CAPE's History: 46 Years of Service

CAPE was founded in 1971 to provide a coherent voice for private schools in the educational community. The inaugural meeting of the board of directors was held on December 1, 1971, and the by-laws identify eight original members of the corporation: Board of Parish Education of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Friends Council on Education, National Association of Episcopal Schools, National Association of Independent Schools, National Catholic Educational Association, National Society for Hebrew Day Schools, National Union of Christian Schools and United States Catholic Conference. Cary Potter from the National Association of Independent Schools was chosen to be the first chairman.

The very next day CAPE testified before the Subcommittee on Education of the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare. The subject was federal aid for nonpublic elementary and secondary schools.

The vision of the founders has been translated into forty years of vigorous activity on behalf of the private schools of the country. Today CAPE is comprised of 22 national organizations serving private elementary and secondary schools. Member organizations are non-profit and subscribe to a policy of non-discrimination in their admission policies. There are currently 38 state CAPE affiliates which strengthen the coalition throughout the country.

The CAPE member organizations and their schools are different from one another: they are religious and non-religious, urban and rural, small and large. However, there are many similarities: all of the schools serve diverse populations; they have a strong sense of mission and purpose which is clearly defined; the schools provide a climate which supports the individual and provides a safe community in which adults and children are able to learn; teachers are valued for their professional expertise and values are part of all aspects of school life. Out of the differences among private schools comes a need to affirm the similarities with a strong advocacy.

In 1993 CAPE inaugurated the CAPE Education Leadership Award which was presented for several years for outstanding contributions to education. However, these were not the first awards presented by CAPE. There were three awards given in 1974-76 for "Distinguished Service to American Education." The Rev. C. Albert Koob, President of NCEA and one of the CAPE founders was the first recipient. Another was Otto Kraushaar, and the third was Cary Potter, also a founding member.

Cary Potter, in remarks made at the awards luncheon on June 14, 1974, in honor of Rev. Koob reflected on private education: " We often talk about the fact that the private school is too little understood. I suspect that what we really ought to be saying is that it is the public nature of the private school that is too little understood, certainly in the public at large." Potter goes on to identify what he means by "public nature". He says we are responsible to the public through its duly constituted governing authorities. "But we are responsible to the public in other ways, equally, if not more, important, and a principal one is the quality of the way we serve. For that we are clearly responsible to that portion of the public whom we serve directly as students and parents. Further, we are clearly responsible to the profession of education, to its ideals, to the maintenance of its standards, to its growth and development and improvement; we have the obligation to share, to learn, in short to serve and contribute to the advancement of education. Finally, we have a special responsibility to this kind of pluralistic society because we represent one among many kinds of voluntary institutions that are critical to its nature..."

We salute the founders of CAPE, the many former board members, and the former executive directors who have served the organization so well. CAPE's mission as defined by the founders, of a coherent private school voice, remains the same and is even more relevant today. Private schools contribute to the public good and must be included in the debate on the future of education in America. Their very existence helps fulfill the American ideal of pluralism. We pledge to continue to build on that strong foundation.

Former CAPE Leadership

Founding Board Members:
Thomas S. Brown FCE
Rev. John Paul Carter NAES
Edward R. D'Alessio USCC
Dr. Joseph Kaminetsky NSHDS
Rev. C. Albert Koob NCEA
Cary Potter NAIS
Dr. Al H. Senske LCMS
John A. Vander Ark CSI
Executive Directors:
1971 - Richard P. Thomsen
1973 - Robert L. Lamborn
1979 - Robert L. Smith
1989 - Joyce G. McCray
1996 - Joe McTighe
2018 - Michael Schuttloffel
Board Chairpersons:
1971 - Cary Potter, NAIS
1973 - Dr. Al H. Senske, LCMS
1977 - Rabbi Bernard Goldenberg, NSHDS
1979 - Clayton Farraday, FCE
1981 - Rev. Msgr. John F. Meyers, NCEA
1982 - Dr. Michael T. Ruiter, CSI
1985 - Dr. Sally Sibley, NAPSEC
1987 - John C. Esty, NAIS
1990 - Bretta Weiss, AMS
1992 - Sr. Catherine T. McNamee, NCEA
1994 - Kay Edstene, FCE
1996 - Michael Eanes, AMS
2000 - Dr. Carl Moser, LC-MS
2001 - Dr. Richard Osborn, SDA
2002 - Daniel Vander Ark, CSI
2005 - Dr. Ken Smitherman, ACSI
2009 - Dr. Irene McHenry, FCE
2013 - The Rev. Daniel Heischman, NAES
2017 - Dr. Dan Egeler, ACSI
2018 - Dr. Gary B. Arnold, Arkansas CAPE

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